Dreaming of a White Christmas? Keep dreaming. Or go west.

Good afternoon.

Hard to believe it is only 5 days until Christmas especially with the weather we have had! For the Northeast, it certainly hasn’t felt like December with warm weather for the entire month so far – many days in the 50s and 60s for most of us and even some 70s in southern areas. It is considerably colder today and early this week with a few areas having seen light snow. However, a big change back is on its way…and this could be the warmest Christmas ever for many areas.

The snow situation – or lack thereof

There is currently very little, if any, snow on the ground anywhere in the Northeast except for northern Maine where recent storms have delivered a strong snow pack (helped by a very deep snow pack in northern Quebec and Labrador allowing cold air to reach down to about 46°N latitude), and downwind of Lake Ontario where some lake effect snow has occurred. Elsewhere, there are a couple inches on the ground at the most even in northern New England and the higher Appalachians. Incredibly, except for northern Maine, there has yet to be a significant snow event ANYWHERE in the region this season so far.

While it is not uncommon along the I-95 corridor to have experienced no significant snow before Christmas (as storms are often warmer and producing rain), it is much rarer inland and in the Appalachians (they generally have at least intermittent snow cover, if not persistent, in December). Most coastal and valley locations have no snow on the ground. No significant snow is in the forecast between now and Christmas, however warm and rain is (as explained in the next section).

NOAA snow depth analysis as of early on December 20. Notice most areas are faint white or uncovered. That will not survive the warmth this week.

NOAA snow depth analysis as of early on December 20. Notice most areas are faint white or uncovered. That will not survive the warmth this week.

Record or near-record warmth coming

Any areas that are currently seeing light snow on the ground will almost certainly lose it in the next 3-4 days. Nearly all of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are looking at one of their warmest, if not absolute warmest, Christmases in record history. The peak of the warm air will likely arrive on Thursday (Christmas Eve) after a warm Wednesday in the Midwest, with a partial cooldown for Christmas Day. Needless to say, for all of the Northeast (except perhaps northern Maine), it will NOT be a White Christmas. Even after the front passes, it is unlikely to get cold enough for snow at least initially.

GFS temperature forecast at 12Z December 24. Some additional warming is possible before the cold front arrives.

GFS temperature forecast at 12Z December 24. Some additional warming is possible before the cold front arrives.

Given that the forecast map is at 7 am local time, it is reasonable to believe additional warming is likely, especially with a somewhat slow cold front. Remember normal highs range from 20s in far northern areas to 30s in inland New England and the Appalachians to 40s in the northern Mid-Atlantic and coastal New England and 50s in the southern Mid-Atlantic. These would all be records for Christmas Eve.

How warm will it get? Based on multiple models, these are reasonable estimates for the warmest temperature likely in this warm spell – in most cases, more typical of September or early October than Christmas:

  • Northern Maine and adjacent parts of Canada: Mid-40s to mid-50s, depending on snowpack (some of it may persist, but won’t be a “classic” White Christmas with melting, muddy snow)
  • Interior northern New England and Adirondacks: Lower 50s to lower 60s
  • Northern valleys (St. Lawrence, Champlain, Ottawa, upper Hudson, etc.): Near 60 to upper 60s
  • Coastal northern New England: Near 60 to upper 60s
  • Coastal southern New England: Lower 60s to near 70
  • Interior southern New England and Catskills: Lower 60s to near 70
  • Central valleys (Mohawk, lower Hudson, Susquehanna, Lake Ontario shore, etc.): Mid-60s to near 70
  • New York City region: Mid-60s to lower 70s
  • Northern Mid-Atlantic coast (NJ, DE, Philadelphia area): Upper 60s to mid-70s
  • Central New York and northern Pennsylvania highlands: Near 60 to upper 60s
  • Chesapeake and Potomac region (DC, Baltimore): Lower 70s to near 80
  • Central Appalachians/Blue Ridge: Mid-60s to lower 70s
  • Southern Piedmont/valleys (Shenandoah, James, upper Potomac, etc.): Near 70 to upper 70s
  • Southern Mid-Atlantic coast (MD, VA): Mid-70s to lower 80s
Dreaming of a White Christmas? Go west!

If you have the money and ability to travel and desperately want a true White Christmas, you could always go west or far north. However, to stay in the east, you would have to travel into central Quebec or Labrador well north of the St. Lawrence Valley, and those areas are not heavily populated at all (as mentioned, northern Maine might still have snow on the ground but it will be melting and wet on Christmas). In the northern Plains and upper Midwest near Lake Superior, snow isn’t exactly plentiful but cold air should keep it on the ground and some additional snow is possible this week. In the Rockies and coastal ranges of the Pacific Northwest, however, they are having one of their best ski seasons in memory. The resorts there will surely have a White Christmas, and a great one too.

National snow cover analysis for early on December 20 from NOAA. The west is doing much better.

National snow cover analysis for early on December 20 from NOAA. The west is doing much better.

 

Likelihood of a White Christmas (from Jillian MacBeth at AccuWeather). I agree with this forecast.

Likelihood of a White Christmas (from Jillian MacMath at AccuWeather). I agree with this forecast.

Regardless, don’t let the weather spoil your Christmas. Many areas don’t experience a White Christmas on a regular basis – or even at all. Yet Christmas exists for most of the world. Hope all our readers have a great and blessed Christmas!

Forecaster Craig Ceecee

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